Alexander Volkov might soon hook one of the heavyweight division’s big fish.
The former M-1 Global and Bellator MMA champion improved to 3-0 in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, as he took out Stefan Struve with third-round punches in the UFC Fight Night 115 main event on Saturday at Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Volkov closed the book on his fifth straight win 3:30 into Round 3.
Superior speed and skill buoyed Volkov. He withstood an early knee strike that resulted in a cut below his left eye, found another gear and let his hands do the rest. Volkov outlanded the towering Dutchman by considerable margins in all three rounds: FightMetric figures show he connected with nearly 100 more significant strikes (135) than Struve (41) by the time it was over.
A multi-punch volley of right uppercuts and left hooks resulted in the only knockdown of the fight in the third round and set the stage for the finish. Once Struve hit the deck, he could no longer defend himself -- a reality that was not lost on referee Marc Goddard, the man who intervened on his behalf.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Volkov vs. Struve,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Alexander Volkov vs. Fabricio Werdum-Derrick Lewis winner: Outside of the cut he sustained, Volkov’s showdown with Struve could not have gone better from his perspective. Since arriving in the UFC a little less than a year ago, the 28-year-old Russian has rattled off consecutive victories over Struve, Roy Nelson and Timothy Johnson, slowly but steadily improving his stock in a division that desperately needs new blood. Werdum will tangle with the monstrous Lewis at UFC 216 on Oct. 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Galore Bofando: Bahadurzada made a successful return from an extended absence, as he shut down Australian prospect Rob Wilkinson with punches in the co-main event. In his first appearance since March 2016, the Afghan striker kept it standing and mowed down Wilkinson with punches in the second round. Bahadurzada, 33, has won nine of his last 11 bouts overall and owns a 3-2 record in UFC competition. Bofando made his organizational debut at UFC Fight Night 113 on July 16, when he knocked out Charlie Ward with an eye-popping slam. His only two defeats were the result of disqualifications.
Darren Till vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio: Till has done nothing but impress since he joined the UFC roster in May 2015. A lethal cocktail of physicality, skill and bravado, the 24-year-old Englishman took a unanimous decision from former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Bojan Velickovic on the UFC Fight Night 115 undercard. Still a year or two away from his prime, Till has posted back-to-back victories after battling Nicolas Dalby to a majority draw in his second Octagon appearance. Ponzinibbio notched the most significant win of his career on July 16, when he needed just 82 seconds to knock out Gunnar Nelson in the UFC Fight Night 113 main event.
Mairbek Taisumov vs. Beneil Dariush-Evan Dunham winner: On a five-fight tear that has seen him finish all five of his opponents, Taisumov seems to have outgrown his surroundings. The 29-year-old Chechen made Felipe Silva his latest victim, when he knocked out the undefeated Brazilian with a blistering right hand in the first round of their preliminary encounter. Afterward, Taisumov made it clear he was setting his sights on more substantial prey at 155 pounds, including but not limited to “The Ultimate Fighter 15” winner Michael Chiesa and Nate Diaz. No matter which direction UFC matchmakers take, there is no shortage of options. Dariush and Dunham will square off at UFC 216 on Oct. 7.
Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Artem Lobov-Andre Fili winner: Magomedsharipov introduced himself to the UFC masses and did so in spectacular fashion, as the featherweight prospect submitted Mike Santiago with a second-round rear-naked choke. The moments leading up to the finish were what had people talking. Magomedsharipov dazzled those in attendance with a wide variety of unorthodox attacks, including an attempted “Showtime Kick” -- the maneuver made famous by former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. He has won nine fights in a row, eight of them finishes. Lobov and Fili will face off at UFC Fight Night 118 on Oct. 21 in Poland.